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Published July 27th 2015

React: Twitter is Using Copyright Law to Extinguish Stolen ‘Fire Tweets’

By setting out the stop the spread of information, Barbra Streisand had hastened it - achieving the exact opposite of what she set out to do.

In 2003, a photo of Barbra Streisand’s million-dollar mansion appeared on Pictopia.com, in a publicly available collection of 12,000 California coastline photographs.

Taken by Kenneth Adelman, the photo had no intent to expose or otherwise harm the film star. Yet, the Streisand househand caught wind of the photograph, and they were angry.

Seeing this as an invasion of privacy, Streisand and her lawyers attempted to sue for the photographer in a $50 million lawsuit.

Their goal was to have the photograph removed from the public domain – even though it had only been downloaded six times before the lawsuit was filed.

After months of high-profile media coverage of the lawsuit, the photo had been downloaded over 420,000 times.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.26.11 AM

By aiming to stop the spread of information, Barbra Streisand had actually achieved the exact opposite.

This has since been dubbed ‘The Streisand Effect‘, with many examples recently seen from individuals, businesses and government, particularly with information traveling so fast.

The real-time nature of Twitter makes the effect event more potent.


What to expect when you steal a fire tweet

The most recent example of The Streisand Effect hasn’t been a mix tape leaking, stolen nude photos or a video of Lord snorting drugs. It’s much simpler and less scandalous.

It’s a one-liner, throwing shade at people who drink juice cleanses.

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The joke – which has since been deleted – was posted on July 8. No great furore was made about the next wave in Twitter observational comedy.

Days later, a handful of comedy accounts started Tweeting the joke word-for-word.

The original author, Olga Lexell, filed a claim to have the Tweets removed. Using the same copyright form that’s available to all users, the complaint reached a Twitter staff member, who saw the offending Tweets removed.

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Claims like this are usually reserved for Tweets hosting stolen images or links to illegally hosted movies.

On Twitter, Lexell explained that, as a freelance writer, she makes her living writing jokes, often posting them on Twitter to test them out. “The jokes are my intellectual property,” she said. “The users in question did not have my permission to repost them without giving me credit.”

Weeks after the original Tweet was posted, the story has been picked in a number of large publications. Suddenly, The Streisand Effect kicked in.

Brandwatch Analytics alerted us that people have just started reposting the joke – word for word – en masse. The total count is currently just shy of 100, but it’s sure to rise as today continues

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.15.18 AM_BW

Stolen jokes aren’t cool, and people shouldn’t be doing it.

But, if there’s any attempt by ‘the man’ (read: Twitter itself) to censor and filter the seemingly harmless actions of users, there will undoubtedly be a backlash.

Will Twitter take down every Tweet which uses the same wording? Should they? Let’s see how this plays out.


If you would like to use this data, or more updated data, in your article, please contact [email protected]


Read more: React: Unpicking the Internet’s Huge Response to DC’s Suicide Squad Trailer

Read more: React: Is Apple Pay Working? Not for These Thousands of People

Read more: React: Should Motorola Be Listening To Twitter? Well, Yes.


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